PRINCETON — Princeton Rotary raised $3,560 with the Gates Foundation matching these dollars two-for-one, for a total of $10,680 to benefit the Rotary International End Polio Now campaign at its Princeton Rotary Foundation dinner on Oct. 22.
Rotary International’s End Polio Now efforts have led to a polio-free India. The last case of polio recorded there was in Janurary 2011. In 1988, there were 125 polio-endemic countries and 71 polio-free contries. Today, there are only 3 polio-endemic countries and 193 polio-free countries.
Every 60 cents given to End Polio Now pays for one child’s vaccination. The $10,680 raised by Princeton Rotary and the Gates Foundation will pay for 17,800 polio vaccines.
Princeton Rotarian John Weborg shared his story. He was 15 years old when he was affected by polio. He had come home to Pender, Iowa, after a fishing trip and felt nauseous. The family doctor was called, and he instructed Weborg’s mother to watch him for more symptoms. Overnight, Weborg had a fever and pain in his leg.
“We called the doctor back to the farm,” Weborg said. “He never even opened his bag. He put his hand on my neck, and it wouldn’t bend. He stood up and couldn’t even face my mother and said ‘I’m afraid he has polio.’”
Weborg was taken to Sioux City, Iowa for treatment by Dr. Harrington.
“Dr. Harrington said to my father, ‘I do not want you to go home for two weeks. I don’t know what type of polio he will have. All we can do is watch and wait.’ That’s what I mean when I say that polio is biological terrorism,” Weborg said.
When the polio had finally stopped spreading through Weborg’s body, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“Then it was time to start physical therapy,” said Weborg. “I have never in my life had pain equal to that of physical therapy for polio.”
Weborg never knew if he would be able to walk again. The goal of his therapy was not for him to be able to walk, but for him to be able to raise his leg to a 90-degree angle without the aid of anesthetics.
“The doctor asked, ‘John, do you want to get out of bed?’ He never used the word walk, which I now understand was because he would have been promising more than he knew he could deliver,” said Weborg.
Weborg’s therapy included hydrotherapy and a daily ritual of trying to walk using metal pipes and collapsing.
“Recovery is a matter of willpower and persistence,” said Weborg. “And you always discover progress by accident. You do something today that you didn’t do yesterday, but you can’t plan for it.”
After 10 weeks of hospitalization and physical therapy, Weborg was able to walk again, and without the aid of braces.
Today Weborg has post-polio syndrome and scoliosis brought on by polio. He experiences more fatigue these days and requires the aid of a cane, but can still walk on his own.
For more information on the Princeton Rotary and how to contribute to End Polio Now, contact Princeton Rotary President Phil Kaufmann at 815-872-2261.